In the 76 days since its release on July 29 this tigress traversed through fields and forests, streams and hillocks, marshy patches and tall grasses, negotiated several roads, and crossed the busy 4-lane NH6 twice, only to now return to Bor. During these days it is believed to have survived mostly on cattle and small prey, and also made two human kills. It was tracked all through by a team of foresters. In later days, the team included an experienced hunter with an order to kill it.
The exercise to monitor was perhaps the biggest in the country for a problem tigress. It is still going on. The tigress was captured on July 10 from South Brahmapuri because it was prone to attacking human beings. It was released in a patch of Bor that had no other tigers on July 29 in fond hope it would find enough prey not to kill humans and make the forest its home.
A few days after its release in relocated Navargaon village in Bor, the restless tigress moved out. Tigers are long-ranging animals known to travel hundreds of kilometres. But maybe owing to destruction of corridors or poor prey base in areas it went to, the T27-C1 as it is technically named, returned to Bor.
Kishor Rithe, member of state-level committee that had okayed its release, said, “Big cats have a tendency to return to their home. It was same with iconic tiger Jai (now missing but likely dead) too. But it hardly has any meaning for this tigress now as tranquillizing/shoot orders have been issued.”
Still its journey has been captivating. It has evaded the monitoring team in vehicles and elephant backs as well as avoided other humans near villages. Though it killed two people and injured one in chance encounters, it never allowed a good shot at itself even to an experienced hunter. “We used JCBs and tractors and did everything possible to capture it,” said a senior official.
Experts do not see this journey as dispersal. Wildlife biologist Milind Pariwakam said, “Movement of tigers being chased by humans may not be seen as natural dispersal behaviour. In such cases, it is responding to capture operations and may be ‘driven’ to newer locations.”
Aditya Joshi, head of conservation research, Wildlife Conservation Trust (WCT), agreed it was not a natural dispersal movement. He still found the way the tigress negotiated the human dominated areas remarkable. It pointed towards importance of maintaining large contiguous forest blocks so negative human-wildlife interactions could be avoided, he said.
“It was expected the tigress would move towards Melghat or Madhya Pradesh, but there was no connectivity,” said Prafulla Bhamburkar, Central India in-charge of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).
“Its journey proves tiger corridors are broken. It crossed hurdles like highways and rivers but when it reached Warud (in Amravati district), there was no way forward and hence reversed course,” said a tiger scientist from Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun.